Are you struggling with an unsightly appearance of fat just above the waistline, otherwise known as a “muffin top”? It’s not a hopeless situation! The appearance of a muffin top generally results from a central distribution of excess body fat, which manifests as an “apple-shaped” figure. Since you can’t necessarily control how your body fat naturally distributes, you basically have to make an effort to keep your body fat percentage low with regular exercise and sensible eating habits. Here are five tips to help you do just that.
Perform a minimum of 45 minutes of cardiovascular (cardio) exercise at a moderate-to-high-intensity, 4-5 days a week. Walking briskly up the slopes of a hill or mountain, jogging, cycling, aerobic dance, and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) are especially effective, as you’ll burn more calories both during and after your workouts. If you’d rather exercise at a lower intensity, I highly recommend doing so for a longer duration (60 minutes or more).
Target your lower body muscle groups with resistance (weight) training. I recommend using relatively heavy loads that fatigue your muscles within 8-10 repetitions. Believe it or not, developing the muscles of your lower body this way can actually create the illusion of a smaller waist. Doing so also increases your body’s overall fat-burning potential. Start by performing 2-4 sets of the following exercises at least 2-3 days per week.
- Wide Dumbbell or Barbell Squats
- Stiff-Leg Deadlifts with Dumbbells or a Barbell
- Dumbbell Lunges (one leg at a time)
- Narrow Dumbbell or Barbell Squats Ups
- Step Ups with Dumbbells
Perform 3-4 sets of upper-body exercises, 2-3 days per week using moderate loads that fatigue your muscles within 12-15 repetitions. To really mask that muffin top, I recommend compound exercises like the bench press or pushups, the military or shoulder press, lat pulldowns or pull-ups, rows, and dips. You should also include a minimum of 2-3 sets of 20-25 repetitions of SIMPLE abdominal exercises like crunches, bicycles and planks on at least 2-3 workout days.
Monitor your calorie and/or nutrient intakes to avoid unwanted weight gain. If you naturally have an apple-shaped figure, weight gain will likely augment your muffin top. Weight gain begins when you consume more calories than you expend (burn) as this creates a calorie surplus. When there’s a surplus, excess calories in the body are generally stored as fat. While it isn’t necessary to track the calories in every single food you eat, you should always be mindful of what you’re eating.
Be persistent but patient. The struggle is real, as muffin top is a widespread problem for both men and women of all shapes and sizes. If you follow these tips, over time, you’ll notice a significant change in the appearance of your midsection. But, in the short-term it may behoove you to refrain from tops and jeans that are tight fitting around the waist.
And there you have it! Five tips for reducing the overall appearance of a muffin top. While you can’t control the way your body naturally distributes excess body fat, following these tips can certainly help you make your body look the way you want it to look.